Focus on Outcomes, Then Goals
Last week we encouraged you to create your “2020 Vision.” In that essay we wrote about the relationship between outcomes and goals. You might have asked, “What’s the difference between an outcome and a goal? Aren’t they the same thing?” Well, yes and no.
Goal setting is a valuable practice that helps you stay on track and get things done. Goals are essential for completing tasks, whether it is developing a new business skill or cleaning your closet. While setting goals can motivate you, they can also produce a feeling that what you currently are or have isn’t enough. A sense of unease can come over you if your goal-oriented life discounts all that is good in the present moment.
A goal tends to be concrete, often focused on solving a problem. Goals are usually a black or white idea that is specific and measurable. They are frequently externally focused on getting or achieving something by a certain date.
When you set a goal, you begin to think about how you are going to achieve it, which evokes your analytical mind, focusing on specific information to achieve your goal. That’s a good thing. The downside is if you are overly focused on just that one goal, you may not pay attention to your intuition and lose sight of other opportunities that are on the horizon.
Over-reliance on goals can also set up a win-lose mindset, which fuels the internal Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). For example, if you don’t reach your goal, your judging mind might say: “Why try anyway? I’ll never be a success.”
Other questions may come up: Am I going to fulfill my goal? Will I be successful or not? Will I be happy once I reach the goal? Should I set another goal to keep the pressure on? Am I a failure if the goal is not reached?
Instead, focus on outcomes first, then goals.
Outcomes tend to be more intrinsically focused, values driven and longer term in nature. When you focus on a broader purpose for continuous learning, for instance, you have a compass that guides you even when things don’t go your way. In other words, outcomes tend to be “larger” than individual goals and often rest on the other side of the problems that goals are trying to fix.
If you combine goal setting in service to your declared outcome, you now have a win/win combination that will generate powerful and positive energy for the long run.
An example of a goal may be: “By next week, I will read a book about listening.” The desired outcome may be: “I am deeply committed to listening first to understand, rather than to be understood.”
Hear the difference?
Reading a book about listening is an awesome goal. When your goals are anchored within outcomes you really care about, you are giving yourself a much higher chance of reaching your goals. Why? Because when action is connected to a larger desired outcome that you care deeply about, you are living from an Outcome Orientation and generating positive energy that will sustain you through thick and thin.
Focusing on outcomes does not mean you give up goals. Quite the contrary. But goals not connected to desired outcomes become a transactional exercise, with a higher chance you will revert to old habits when challenges arise.
No wonder New Year resolutions rarely work!
By setting your outcomes first, and combining it with goals, you cultivate your Creator essence which enjoys both the journey, as much as the destination.